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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Israel rejects genocide charges, tells World Court it must defend itself

Israel described the allegations leveled by South Africa as hypocritical and said one of the biggest cases ever to come before an international court reflected a world turned upside down

Accused of committing genocide against Palestinians, Israel insisted at the United Nations’ highest court Friday that its war in Gaza was a legitimate defense of its people and that it was Hamas militants who were guilty of genocide.

Israel described the allegations leveled by South Africa as hypocritical and said one of the biggest cases ever to come before an international court reflected a world turned upside down. Israeli leaders defend their air and ground offensive in Gaza as a legitimate response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, when militants stormed through Israeli communities, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages.

Read more: Israel to face Gaza genocide charges at World Court

Israeli legal advisor Tal Becker told a packed auditorium at the ornate Palace of Peace in The Hague that the country is fighting a “war it did not start and did not want.”

“In these circumstances, there can hardly be a charge more false and more malevolent than the allegation against Israel of genocide,” he added, noting that the horrible suffering of civilians in war was not enough to level that charge.

Read more: Hezbollah strikes back at Israel army base

On Friday afternoon, Germany said it wants to intervene in the proceedings on Israel’s behalf, saying there was “no basis whatsoever” for an accusation of genocide against Israel.

“Hamas terrorists brutally attacked, tortured, killed and kidnapped innocent people in Israel,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement. “Since then, Israel has been defending itself against the inhumane attack by Hamas.”

Under the court’s rules, if Germany files a declaration of intervention in the case, it will be able to make legal arguments on behalf of Israel.

Germany would be allowed to intervene at the merits phase of the case to address how the genocide convention, drawn up in 1948 following World War II, should be interpreted, according to international lawyer Balkees Jarrah, associate director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch.

“That would come after the court issues its decision on South Africa’s request for urgent measures to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Jarrah told The Associated Press from The Hague, where she attended the ICJ hearings.

Germany’s support for Israel carries some symbolic significance given its Nazi history.

Hebestreit said Germany “sees itself as particularly committed to the Convention against Genocide.” He added: “We firmly oppose political instrumentalization.”